Friday, June 30, 2017

Legislative Update: June 30th

Asheville Chamber Vice President of Public Policy sums up recent legislative activity in Raleigh

A lot has happened in the last couple of weeks, so I wanted to make sure our members stayed well informed about developments from Raleigh. I just got back last night from there, and it has been an interesting, busy time, as they are trying to wrap up this long session by the end of the week. I will try to remain as concise as possible about the most important bills and updates, as it relates to Asheville and area businesses:
  • “Brunch bill”  - Really termed the ABC Omnibus Bill, because it affects a lot of regulatory issues and cleans up some Prohibition-era mechanisms, is better known for allowing alcohol sales at 10 am on Sundays. This bill has passed both chambers of the General Assembly and will allow local restaurants, breweries, grocery stores, etc. to serve alcohol on Sundays starting at 10 am. The last step will be for the County or City to pass an ordinance to allow those sales locally (NOTE: if the County passes an ordinance, the City can just adopt it by resolution; if not, the City would have to pass a separate ordinance). The Asheville Chamber is excited about this opportunity for our local businesses to reap the benefits of this new law and hopes local officials will act swiftly on this prospect. The Chamber would also like to recognize the efforts of Rep. Chuck McGrady, who had his original bill stripped down, but fought back to get language beneficial to a larger group of area businesses passed. We would also like to recognize our entire local delegation who voted in favor or sponsored some version of the bill! 
  • Asheville Districts On the floor Thursday for its final reading, and presumably for final approval, is the bill that will order City Council to draw districts in the City of Asheville by November 1, 2017. Thanks to an amendment from Rep. Brian Turner, City Council will be asked to appoint an independent commission (the first of its kind) to do the map drawing, with the hopes of drawing the 6 districts in a fair, even, unbiased way. The Mayor will still be elected citywide. All signs point to it becoming a reality this afternoon, but I will let you all know if it does not pass for some reason. 
  • Economic Incentive Modifications - Now under the bill # S 660, this bill seeks to revamp and reconfigure the Tier system used statewide for doling out incentive dollars from the Dept. of Commerce. The original bill was very detrimental to Buncombe and other Tier 3 counties, but the new version seeks to right a lot of wrongs, without punishing areas that are doing well. This bill includes a provision that would untangle the use of the Tier system from other funding programs not related to economic commerce incentives (There’s a recent trend to use the tiers to determine who gets pre-K funding, subsidies, nonprofit grants and even spay and neuter program assistance!). The Asheville Chamber has been at the table as this bill has changed and supports the current version of the bill. We may see it on the floor by tomorrow, but it may not occur this session at all. Stay tuned… 
  • Workers’ Comp reforms - Please see an update on recent State Supreme Court ruling affecting Workers’ Comp reforms of 2011 from the NC Chamber: 
    • A recent ruling from the North Carolina Supreme Court unravels the balanced workers’ compensation reforms achieved in 2011. Instituting the most dramatic changes to workers’ compensation since the 1980’s, this decision comes as a major blow to the business community. Not only will this ruling cultivate a system hindered by gridlock, but it will also force costs to skyrocket. The State of North Carolina’s insurance fund alone will have to pay more than $20 million per year due to these changes.
    • The 2011 workers’ compensation reforms restored balance in a no-fault system, made sure workers received timely access to benefits, and drove costs down. Sadly, this ruling expands liability and obliterates those changes, turning the negotiated workers’ compensation reform on its head.
    • The repercussions of this ruling will be crippling to the business community as the 2011 reforms are undone. Our team is already hard at work fighting to secure a legislative fix to this ruling and will not stop until one is achieved. If you’re ready to join the fight, please add your business to this coalition of organizations and businesses strongly urging the General Assembly to correct the decision swiftly.
    • We are monitoring these changes closely and trying to help achieve a legislative fix…

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